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Thome Speaks Of Past, Present and Future With Cleveland City Club

| On 25, Oct 2011

Monday afternoon Jim Thome added his name to another elite list, few baseball players have achieved when he spoke to the City Club of Cleveland. Thome became only the second Major League Baseball player to speak to the group, joining Babe Ruth.

The nearly hour long speech, moderated by Tom Hamilton, and question and answer can be heard in its entirety on istream, and has been reported upon and picked apart for nearly 24 hours already but I found several things interesting from the 41-year old slugger. Many of Thome’s comments can easily be interpreted.

Thome may be an active player still who wishes to play in 2012, but the aging slugger clearly thinks of himself as a Cleveland Indian of the 1990s. When Hamilton played word association, he had nothing but high praise for each of his teammates of the past and you can hear the excitement in his voice when he remembers those teams. Thome discussed Carlos Baerga’s charisma, Albert Belle’s tenacity and Charles Nagy’s class. He called Belle and Manny Ramirez, “the two best clutch hitters I’ve ever seen.”

He admired Kenny Lofton’s electricity and that they all loved some of his arrogance because they all knew their team was that good. He even admitted his bat flip in the 1995 World Series wasn’t to show up the Atlanta Braves, but was intended to respond to Greg Maddux hitting Eddie Murray innings earlier.

“That home run I hit put us ahead. The bat flip was not intended, it was just emotion coming out. It could have landed in the 15th row I was so fired up,” Thome said.

Presently, he was honored to return to the Indians in August and September to try and help the Indians make the playoffs, provide leadership and repay the fans. He admitted that each offseason he and his wife, Andrea, have always discussed the possibility of returning to Cleveland.

He was disappointed to not advance to the playoffs this season, but sees the Indians on the rise. “When I got here, we were very good, but we had some injuries. Detroit played very well and you have to commend them,” Thome said. “When I was with the Twins, everyone looks at the Cleveland Indians and says wow. In a year or two, they can do real special things. You know when a team is good for a month, or good for six months.”

He admitted for the first time in his career young players gravitated to him and asked him questions about their swings, their play and questions about his career. He said it was humbling at first, but he pulled from the experiences as young player with Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield. Just like Baerga a month ago, he discussed how much the two players helped him and the Indians of the mid-90s. “When Eddie walked into the locker room, you knew it was time to go,” Thome said.

While he didn’t say it, its clear Thome feels the current day Tribe needs some veteran leadership added to its core for 2012. Whether it’s Omar Vizquel, a player he called, “one of the best ever at his position. He and Robbie Alomar were two of the most fundamentally sound players ever because they knew how to beat you with what they had,” or someone else, a veteran presence is necessary. Vizquel could certainly be worth his value by just taking infield each day with Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, two young infielders who each have defensive improvements to make.

And while he made it clear he hopes to play in 2012 and is, “just needs a team to call him,” he has already considered his life after baseball. He discussed how he admires Charles Nagy for what he has done as a pitching coach and his success in Arizona and his good friend Sandy Alomar’s future managerial aspirations. “I’m as close to Sandy as anyone because of what he did for me as a young player,” Thome said. “He’s going to be a great manager some day because of his presence.”

Thome certainly seems to want to have a role in baseball after his playing career ends. He discussed at length how he matured from a 13th round draft pick to a Major Leaguer because of his minor league instructors, Charlie Manuel, Johnny Goryl and Brian Graham. He called them guys who really cared to see players improve in progress.

“The game has bettered me and I want to do some things to try and better the game,” he said when referring to his life after his career ends.

Despite his impending free agency at the end of the World Series, it seems whether the slugger leaves Cleveland again for another summer in the sun, his past and present are in Cleveland and his future will be with the Indians again in some regard. The organization needs his experience and leadership and he’s ready to instill it either on or off the field.

Photo: Associated Press